Tareq Taylor on how to build a winning team

100% passion for the customer experience

Passion, an eye for details and focus on the experience. Today’s conversation with the chef, entrepreneur and TV personality Tareq Taylor is about building teams, involving customers, staying creative and safeguarding quality in stressful situations – but also about circular economy. Let’s take a few minutes to learn from a master.

The restaurant industry has always adapted to changes in society, has always had to be inventive and adaptable in order to face both good and bad times. The past year has brought many new challenges. But despite risks and small margins, Tareq Taylor is always driven by the desire to create extraordinary experiences:

“I want to evoke emotions and to create unforgettable memories for the guests. It’s a craft, all the way from cultivating on our own land, our network of local farmers and how we source local meat, fish, birds and game, to our premises that evoke history and our menu that changes with the seasons. What arrives on the plate is always a new experience. To see someone’s face light up is amazingly rewarding,” says Tareq.

“What separates our industry from others is that we focus on the experience before we consider the profitability. In the restaurant we don’t place the cost-benefit analysis front and centre. All industries and companies have their own vision; whether it’s to build ball bearings, motor vehicles or to sell shoes, we must all strive to be passionate about what we do. That way we’ll do an even better job.”

In the restaurant, Tareq and his staff meet new guests every day. As a team they put a lot of thought and love into ensuring that every guest will have a fantastic experience. Quality assurance work is done continuously:

“First and foremost, self-reviewing is everything. We often eat out, and of course we also eat in our own restaurant where we always take the guest’s perspective. We must always perform and can never compromise on quality. It’s one thing to stand in the kitchen but it’s completely different to sit at a table – to see and learn are absolutely crucial. To continuously challenge the experience is the key to high quality.”

“Secondly, you must find calm and stability in order to create the capacity to deliver. We must systematise everything and cannot be stressed. To be able to produce a certain meal we have a process for everything. That gives us the possibility to relax even in stressful situations.”

“Thirdly, we can involve the customer in the experience. It’s possible to prepare ourselves and the guests by getting the right information. How many are they? What would they like? Any allergies? Are they celebrating? This makes both us and the guests ready and gives us a better chance to deliver. If we get the wrong information or if unexpected circumstances arise, there’s a risk that the system breaks.”

Collaboration and co-creation are recurring themes for success in several different industries, and Tareq also sees co-creation as the best way to work. To build relationships within the team also outside of the restaurant is important to strengthen trust in one another:

"Creating a transparent culture and contributing to the broader helicopter view while at the same time paying attention to details." 

Tareq Taylor, Chef & Entrepreneur

“My ambition is to be a team player surrounded by a strong team – there is so much creative capacity here and that is crucial to our results. This team is an extension of my family, the restaurant is my heart. Everyone supports each other, which I believe is the key to well-being. We’ve worked hard to create this climate and invest a lot in inspiration trips, straightforward conversations and workshops.”

With a lot of staff and several businesses, Tareq attaches great importance to being a good leader – creating a positive and transparent culture and contributing to the broader helicopter view while at the same time paying attention to details.

“I have fantastic colleagues and can warmly hand over the daily work to them. At Kockeriet I come to work as often as I can, and I am always present. I run my other businesses together with others, and I surround myself with people who are better than me. My philosophy is that every person you meet has greater competence in some area than you do – you can’t believe you can do it all.”

It’s the joy of creating something new that drives Tareq Taylor, and as a more public person than he used to be, new opportunities have opened up for him. For instance, he’s gotten to create new products for a market that he’s worked with for a long time – including the world’s first circular frying pan.  

“Our frying pan is part of a circular system and we produce it from recycled aluminium in Småland. When the pan gets worn out, you mail it to us and in return you get one that we’ve sandblasted, lacquered and mounted a new handle on. Our frying pan therefore has a lifespan of 15-16 years instead of 1.5 years, which is the average today. It’s a good example of a product that is good for both the environment and the future.”

Precisely that the product is good for the future is one of Tareq’s three core values. He won’t budge on them and all new projects he takes on must be in line with them. The other two are that it must benefit many people and, of course, be something he himself is passionate about.

“Another good example of a project that meets these values is The food is ready in Lund focused on delivering real food to the elderly. It’s the only ready-meal that is 100% made from the ground up – really good food without shortcuts. We’ve removed all unnecessary additives, we package the portions in-store and we have a varied selection every day.”

The project’s hope is to create a whole new era in Sweden. Because the food is not machine-made, it also creates plenty of new jobs for young chefs. During the pandemic the project has given more than 15,000 portions of food to elderly care homes and hospitals in the country, something that has really been appreciated:
“A nurse told us about a man who normally hardly ate, but damn, when he got real mashed turnips and boiled pickled pork – he just kept going! It really moved me and convinced me that we have our priorities right in this project.”

Four insights from the conversation with Tareq Taylor

  1. Finding your passion and putting it first. If you’re passionate, you can achieve anything. And the field of possible services, products and ideas is limitless.

  2. The importance of spending time on building a winning team. Trust is not created by itself and it’s easier said than done. Take your time, get to know your team personally and professionally. Strong culture beats economic incentive models every day of the week, in all industries.

  3. Details, details and details. It’s always possible to calibrate the experience and to challenge your own delivery. What can we do better? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Look at scent, taste, lighting and sound. It’s possible to translate this to all industries and all types of meetings. Internal as well as external.

  4. Systematise and find your process to create the conditions for high quality even under stress. What do we not compromise on? Do we go as far as saying no to customers in order to ensure the quality of our existing deliveries? Where is our boundary?